Angel Oak Tree

I saw a painting of it in one of the art galleries on famous King Street in Charleston, South Carolina. It was calling me from across the room: the Grandmother of all Trees! She had a name and a location – Angel Oak Tree, Johns Island. The tree was summoning me, I had to find her. Miraculously, it was close to where I was staying and my friend drove me there.
Angel Oak lives on Johns Island and is a Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana), very different from our Northern oak trees. An extensive fence around the tree announced that the City of Charleston owns this area and sends its most committed police men to patrol it and protect it against vandalism and tree-climbing bandits. To make sure that there can be no misunderstanding, there are even more signs set up under the tree reminding visitors not to carve the tree limbs or climb around on them.

angel tree

Angel Oak is estimated to be 1,500 years old, and is possibly the oldest tree east of the Mississippi. It stands 65 feet (20 m) tall and its crown covers 17,000 square feet (1,600 sq.m.). Many of its limbs are resting on the ground. Heavy-duty metal pipes support branches high up in the air. The longest limb extends 89 feet.
The oak was previously owned by the Angel family; however, local folklore tells of another source for the name of the tree: ghosts of former slaves are said to appear as angels around the tree.

heavy branches resting on the ground

under heavy branches

People young and old wander around the huge trunk (25.5 feet in circumference) and duck under the massive limbs

girl in blue under tree

They run their hands across the rough bark, whisper prayers to it, gaze up admiringly

looking up the tree

touching the tree

angel tree front door

The tree appears to have many arms, like a multi-limbed Shiva

how many arms

and maybe a second tree that seems to embrace the mother:

limb wrapping

If this tree could talk, what stories would it tell?

if this tree could talk

Looking out towards the young forest surrounding Angel Oak, you can see the contrast between the puny size of the much younger trees keeping a respectful distance from Grandmother Tree.

woods surrounding angel tree

Reluctantly, leaving the green and lofty canopy of Angel Oak, we stroll towards the exit and discover a painter who has already created two images of her:

painting angel tree

He tells us of the albino squirrel he saw sitting on the tree, posing long enough for him to paint its whispy ghost image into the tree.

the white squirrel


About Beauty Along the Road

A blog about discovering beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations.
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54 Responses to Angel Oak Tree

  1. Wait, is that the famous tree that’s on a development land and that could be chopped off? There was an article on NPR a few months ago about this and it caused a lot of complaints from all over the country.


  2. It IS!!! Looks like they had until Nov 21 to raise enough money to buy that part of the land. Do you know if they succeeded? Do they have any signs about that by the tree?


  3. I can see the magical draw of that tree and why you had to seek it out. She has seen so much over her lifetime! You captured the tree so well in your photos.


  4. utesmile says:

    Amazing tree, thank you for sharing this with us!


  5. suzjones says:

    I would certainly hope that tree is still standing. A travesty if it isn’t. 😦


  6. randee says:

    It’s beautiful! Thank you for sharing with your amazing photos. I love the one of the painter with the tree in the background. I want to go see her!


  7. Cee Neuner says:

    Your photos are amazing of this old giant. I would love to photograph it. I love your photos of the artist.


  8. Bipasha says:

    I wonder how much the tree has gone through & witnessed…


    • Yes, I had those same thoughts – considering that the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, the Colonial period, slavery and all of those historical times were happening while the tree was already ancient I see the Amerindians who were very quickly displaced by the early colonists using that tree already as a meeting place….


  9. What a beautiful and incredible looking ancient oak…..there is always such a feeling of peace under very old trees, and the shapes the branches have come to form are so inspiring. I love the shots of the painter working away directly under his muse 🙂 What tales could be woven from the what this old soul has witnessed.


    • Yes, that feeling of peace and ancient-ness is often present among these trees. I know you have some favorite old trees you have introduced us to on your blog….Plants are some of the oldest living things on our planet and they have an accumulated intelligence among them that is probably superior to our human intelligence. They have so much to tell us if we would only sit still long enough to hear….


  10. Oh my gosh! thank you for sharing these images of this mighty oak tree!! It brings tears to my eyes! Soooo amazing!! Cheers!


  11. I would love to see this tree. I hope they don’t cut it or harm it.
    Beautiful pictures and heart warming post! Thanks for sharing.


  12. What a fantastic old tree! Your photos of it are really stunning. Love the guy’s painting too. 🙂


  13. Ann Koplow says:

    Beautiful tree and post!


  14. You did a great job capturing the beauty of those trees. Charleston has some really old beautifyl trees. I visit Hilton Head alot and there are some there just like in Charleston. 🙂

    check out my blog sometime.


  15. Tina Schell says:

    Annette, I am so happy to see your photos of our glorious Angel Oak. Those of us who live nearby adore it. I take all of our visitors to see it and everyone is equally amazed at its grandeur. Thanks for posting about it!


  16. Sarah Jane says:

    My boyfriend and I plan to have our wedding under the Angel Oak one day! I love your pictures of it, they’re very unique and different from any I’ve seen.


  17. Himani B says:

    so majestic and gorgeous! love it 🙂


  18. tgeriatrix says:

    Again nature as artist! Thanks for sharing it with the rest of the world!


  19. tree girl says:

    What a magnificent tree!

    I’ve heard that the Native Americans believe that each tree sings its own song. I wonder what this old girl sings.

    Beautiful photos.


  20. themofman says:

    In consideration of the story of the ghosts of slaves being associated, was this treet used for lynchings?


  21. Ann Koplow says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you so much for guiding me here.


  22. Pingback: Thank you, World. | The Beauty Along the Road

  23. Lucid Gypsy says:

    It’s magnificent, thanks for showing me through your superb images!


  24. Jane Lurie says:

    You’ve made some wonderful captures of an amazing treasure, Annette. Very nice!


  25. I’ve been looking for some reference photos for a painting but stoped thinking about a painting after finding this. Wonderful and amazing. We’re living in a very green country with lots of trees but this… Spectacular


  26. D.E. Hendley jr says:

    I’ve been there many times. Being a South Carolinian from the Midlands I am proud of our state and it’s natural beauty. From our beautiful Low Country through the Midlands sand hills up to the mountains in the Piedmont, there is much to see. We had two of our treasures broken, the second largest Live Oak in the Congaree Swamp fell to Hugo and the Peach Tree Rock in Lexington County now lays on it’s side. The Angel Oak is a true a true beauty to see all I can say is come enjoy the wonders and use part of the old hikers sayin, ‘leave only foot prints’.

    Liked by 1 person

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